“The nectar in the heart of an individual is not for himself. It is for others.”—Swami Kripalu
Carly Sachs, guest blogger
Outside it is a perfect fall day—lots of colored leaves, blue sky with low-hanging clouds. It’s a day that feels like when I walk outside I’m stepping into a canvas, the day so gorgeous, it seems almost painted, too good to be true. Inside, I don’t feel so picture-perfect. And it’s hard being a yoga intern at a yoga retreat center and feeling bad. Even though I am using my tools—being compassionate to myself (sort of), breathing, meditating, and sharing—it still feels like something is wrong with me.
While I’m outside everything in the world looks perfect, and everything in my life looks perfect: a great romantic relationship, meaningful work, and loving family and friends. But something feels terribly raw and empty inside. The sense is that I’m not doing something I feel I should be doing, but I don’t know what’s missing. Or rather, somewhere I know there is a knowing in me, I just haven’t been able to unlock or translate the message. In this moment, it is a feeling.
I sit at my kitchen table smiling as I gaze lovingly at my newly acquired collection of cookbooks. With titles such as Jerusalem, Turquoise: A Chef’s Travels in Turkey, Mourad New Moroccan, and A Mediterranean Feast , each recipe- and photo-filled volume must weigh at least five pounds. These books are souvenirs that I brought back from my visit this past weekend to the Culinary Institute of America’s annual Worlds of Flavors conference near San Francisco. This year’s theme was Arc of Flavors: Re-imagining Culinary Exchange, from the Mediterranean and Middle East to Asia, and indeed we explored much of the world and its fabulous flavors.
The conference was quite the experience: Imagine 700 chefs watching 70 other chefs and restaurateurs from about 30 countries sharing their interpretations of the food and cooking styles of their region. And then we ate. And ate. And ate!
I’ve always been an exceedingly devoted friend, so much so that, when I was in high school, my father, perhaps in a fit of frustration and almost certainly with unintended cruelty, informed me that my friends would never be there for me the way I insisted on being there for them. I’m guessing, now, that he was only trying to protect me from hurt and disappointment, or perhaps encourage a sense of cynicism (that has since served me well as a journalist, if not as an optimist). But at the time it only made me feel sad. That might be his experience, I thought, but it wasn’t going to be mine. Once I made a friend, I made a friend for life.
At 35, I’ve largely stuck to this philosophy, collecting friends through my various life experiences—college, jobs, yoga classes, travels—and only rarely shedding them. Perhaps this need to connect with and amass people—a mix of confidantes and companions—is a byproduct of being an only child; I seek friends to fill the space siblings otherwise might have. For a few summers in my twenties, though, the habit had me spending the bulk of my weekends at weddings. It was not a cheap hobby.
Lori Shridhare, guest blogger
One late evening in August 1990, I sat alone in the Bologna train station in northern Italy, frustrated that I had missed my overnight train to France. I was winding down my summer of backpacking through Europe and my last year as a teenager. Hot and sweaty, I had no choice but to take a local train with no sleeping cars for the hour-long journey to Milan, then several more hours to Lyon. I climbed aboard the crowded train and sat in a car with a priest and three women. As I settled into my seat, Walkman hugging my ears, a tall, distinguished twenty-something young man sat in the remaining seat across from me. His wavy blondish-brown hair curled behind his ears, with strands falling along his designer glasses. What stood out most to me were his clear aqua eyes, his suspenders strapped over his lavender button-down shirt, and his sharp nose. He looked like a European fashion model, and I hoped he’d be sitting across from me all night.
Every relationship has its milestone moments—the ones that not only change the course of one’s life but also perhaps even more significantly for a chef, change the look of one’s kitchen! Yes, I did it. I made the ultimate sacrifice for love this past weekend as I bade a fond farewell to my beloved six- burner, deep red Bertazonni range (and having total control of my kitchen) and moved in with my fiancée, Jim.
We’d decided on the plan months before, and for the past few weeks I’ve been clearing out the old: organizing and packing up a life lived 16 years in one place. And then came moving day. In a blink of an eye every knife, pot, pan, bowl, spatula, whisk, and tea accoutrement was packed away out of site only to reappear hidden deep inside a box stacked high in the middle of what was to be their new home– at least for some of them. Ah, mergers! Unlike our previous cohabitating experiences with our first spouses when we were each young and less encumbered with stuff, Jim and I faced the daunting equation of adding one home to one home and producing “one” home!
Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the Mindsight® Institute. He has published extensively, including Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, an in-depth exploration of the power of the mind to integrate the brain and promote well-being.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I teach interpersonal neurobiology to empower people to create more integration, kindness, and compassion in their lives and the world.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A I was working with a family whose relationships with each other were profoundly shaped by a brain injury the mother experienced. The question of how to help this family depended on addressing how mind, brain, and relationships are interconnected, and what makes them so fundamental to well-being. That experience gave birth to a journey to bring all the sciences together into one perspective, one we now call “interpersonal neurobiology,” that offers a definition of the mind, a view of mental health, and a framework that reveals how mind, brain, and relationships are three facets of one reality that shapes our lives.
You know you’re in love when it downpours on the day of your engagement party with 25 friends coming to you house, and it still feels like the sun is shining in all the right places.
Life has been busy (can anyone relate?) these past few months, and Jim and I have not been good at pulling together a dinner party on any regular basis.
Side note: Time is an interesting thing, isn’t it? Don’t laugh, but one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to “master time.” Yes, somehow I have this glimmer of hope that it’s possible to enjoy life and all those opportunities that come our way with a grace and ease that make it seem as though there’s always enough time.
Despite the many days when I feel anything but graceful, this past weekend got me in one of those busy yet timelessness modes. On the night before the party, my two chef buddies, Jeremy and Sim, came over to help start the food prep. I had designed a fun menu featuring kabobs, spanakopita, lots of fun salads (see one of my favorites below), homemade grape leaves, roasted beets with chèvre—the list went on.